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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Camping on Gun Lake in Middleville, Michigan / Yankee Springs Recreation Area and Campground

April 2015, Weekend-weekday, 3-nights, Lot 60 and Lot 42


I have included a few photos in this blog post, and there are many more in the Yankee Springs Recreation Area album on my Facebook page.

We had initially planned to camp in Petoskey State Park the weekend of this stay; however, the temperature in Michigan dropped to below 40° (during the day) in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan this week. After researching several lower Michigan inland parks and towns, we decided on Yankee Springs Recreation Area instead. When we made our decision, four nights before our stay, lot 60 was the only waterfront campsite left, so we booked that. We considered waiting before booking lot 60, and we should have. Before our stay, and after we had made our reservation, two more waterfront lots became available from cancellations; lot 50 and lot 78. Lot 50 looked like a better lot with more of a lake view instead of channel view, and it has a tar pad. There is a $10 reservation change fee online, so we decided to wait until we arrived at the park to ask about changing lots.

Arrival/check-in

We arrived around 12:30 p.m., and lot 50 had already been filled by someone that morning, so we stayed on our original lot for the weekend. The first entrance booth to the boat launch and campground was not staffed at the time of our stay; the campground check-in station was staffed, and staff members were also working in the campground during the days. It only took us a few moments to check-in.

view from lot 60 toward Gun Lake

Lot #60

This is a spacious lot with full sun. We wanted the sunshine, since it was only 40° to 50° during the day, and the temperature dropped to around freezing overnight.


view from the back of lot 60


Gun Lake was slightly visible from the fire pit looking behind our RV.

Even though all of the channel lots except for lot 78 had been booked for the weekend, it was quiet on this lot because several people did not show up. Lot 58, right next to us, and lot 54, were both empty all weekend. Campers in a tent stayed on lot 56 Friday night, and then they left on Saturday. This left all three lots between lot 60 and Gun Lake open. Someone had taken lot 78, which is farther inland, after we arrived.



sunset from lot 60

One of the bathhouses is located pretty close to lot 60, although it was not open in April. I did not see any pit toilets in the campground; a Porta John had been placed in front of each bathhouse.

Lot #42

Another lot we had considered when making our reservation was lot 42. The online description for this lot said that it is close to the beach and playground, although the pictures did not show this clearly, and it did not look like there is a view of the water from the lot.

view from inside camper on lot 42
When we arrived at the park, we saw that there is an excellent view of the water from lot 42. The beach and playground are very close in front of this lot. Since we do not have young kids, I do not think we would like this lot in the summer, as the area is probably noisy and busy.


Someone had reserved lot 42 for the weekend before we arrived at the park. We decided to stay a third night, so on Sunday we moved to lot 42.

sunset from lot 42
Lot 42 is also a spacious lot with a good amount of sun. The description on the website says this lot has full sun; however, I do not agree with that. Shade is visible in the online photo (MI DNR reservation site), and when the leaves are on the trees on the edge of the lot, I expect there would be shade on this lot at certain times of the day.

The view and privacy on lot 42 were both excellent in the springtime. Again, check out the album on my Facebook page for more photos and details.

Recreation

Yankee Springs Recreation Area is over 5,200 acres. Some of the areas are within walking distance from the campground, and some of the trails are a few miles away. I am providing some information here about the trails we hiked, and there are more details and photos in the Facebook album.


beach on Murphy's Point;
channel lots in distance
Murphy's Point is across the channel from the channel lots. We rode our bikes out to the very end of the point from lot 60, and it was about 3.75 miles round trip. There is a trail through the woods behind lot 98, or you can take the road back toward the park entrance, and then turn down the road to the point.

The fishing pier on the channel is the first thing you'll pass on the way out to the end of Murphy's Point. There is also a beach, boat launch, several picnic tables and shelters, and public restrooms. None of the buildings were open in April.

Sassafras Trail is accessible from the campground. The entrance starts in the parking lot next to the Ranger Station (check-in office/building). This trail is a level, easy walk of about 1 mile. We started at lot 60, and also walked out to the beach, and the distance we had traveled was 1.94 miles when we returned to our lot.

Long Lake Trail is also accessible from the campground. There is a marker showing where to access the trail from Sassafras Trail. This is a scenic hike, although the lake is not visible from the trail.  We observed a turkey vulture and other birds during our hike. We walked through the group camping area on our way back to the campground and down to the boat launch to view the lake. This is a pretty easy hike with an elevation change of only 187 feet.

We rode our bikes to the entrance of Hall Lake and Graves Hill Overlook, which was just over 2 miles from our campsite. The bicycle lane on the side of Gun Lake Road is not very spacious; fortunately, the speed limit on the road is only 30 MPH.
Hall Lake

The trail sign/map at the entrance has the hike listed in time rather than miles. It says that it is a 1-hour hike, which was pretty accurate. We took the trail left up to Graves Hill Overlook, and returned past Hall Lake. The trail was well marked, although we did not think there was much to see at the overlook in the spring. I imagine this would be beautiful in the fall.

Our total hiking distance was 1.93 miles, and it took us about 45 minutes. The elevation change was 374 feet.

Devil's Soup Bowl is accessible from Graves Hill Overlook, although we did not hike it from there. You can also park near Devil's Soup Bowl to access more trails for hiking, so we did that the next day. It is about a 1-mile hike from the parking lot near Devil's Soup Bowl to walk around the permitter and back. This was a fairly easy walk with a change in elevation of 516 feet. This trail is not as well marked as the Graves Hill Overlook and Hall Lake trails.

The recreation area map shows that a gravel road connects Norris Road and Hastings Point Road. Since we were already part way down the road/two-track to the Devil's Soup Bowl parking area, we decided to take the road the rest of the way to Norris Road. We expected the road to turn into a gravel two-way road before we reached M-179; however, it did not. It is a two-track road the entire way. We wished we had been in our Jeep and not our one-ton dually truck, which was kind of big for the road!

There is a place on the map labeled Mt. Baldy Scenic Overlook just outside of the recreation area. We asked the park ranger about the overlook, and she was not familiar with it. We decided to see if we could find it, and surprisingly we did. There is not a sign on the road, and even though the leaves were not on the trees yet, the sign on the guard rail was barely visible after we had pulled off the road.

Mt. Baldy Trail
Mt. Baldy Scenic Overlook is about 1 mile east of Yankee Springs Road. It is about a 3-minute hike to the top (elevation 86'), and there are two benches at the top.

Overall and misc.

We loved this park, and plan to visit in the fall next time! There are a couple of businesses located on M-179, which are very close to the park -- a couple of pizza restaurants and Sand Bar & Grill, where we stopped for a brew and snack. We also stopped at Sam's Gourmet Foods on Gun Lake Road to pick up a few things.

Let me know if you have any questions or hints to share!